Benjamin Franklin had little free time in his old age. He complained of this cram-packed-with-politics schedule to close friends. The very new United States– still fighting to survive needed his diplomacy, wit, wisdom and time. And nobody else could fill his shoes. His science experiments lay unfinished collecting dust in his backyard laboratory. Like some homeowners in my neighborhood are house poor– great salaries funneled straight to paying the mortgage and fixing up the house, Benjamin Franklin was energy poor. State-building sucked every last bit of Franklin’s remarkable energy– and he felt his soul shrink.
A few days ago, my eight-year-old son asked us all at breakfast, What is the worse possible thing you can imagine happening? I immediately thought of losing my child to scurvy or a car accident. But my six-year-old daughter said, Oh. I think living your entire life and never having done what you were meant to do– without doing what you love. That would be terrible.
My daughter is right on. I’m so glad she can say this out loud without a second thought.
But how could you die without ever reaching your potential? For Franklin a new nation claimed his time, thus suppressing his exuberant creative pursuit. But energy-claimers are most often historic only in your wildest dreams– masses of urgent incoming e-mails, houses to build, fortunes to lay out for the future. You could die without ever cracking your creative potential by failing to ever decide to start. You could give up attending to your dreams when the phone starts ringing or when your wife complains about the yard. If you must choose between keeping bargains you never made or owning your energy and creative potential– well, I think you can guess what I’d say.
Having a choice at all, is a privilege. If you have no food, many sick children, a husband who beats you, no shelter and no work in sight, your choices are much, much smaller. But my guess is, if you have time enough to read these words– you have at least some (education, time, money, space) options for creation. The French philosopher Ernest Renan said,
The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with truths for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life.
Ignored creativity– no matter how plentiful or unruly at the start or how honorable the competition, dries up. And once you decide you’ve got to create come hail or high water, what you do with the truths you know– that is what makes you Creative or not.
How about you? Is your creativity still dammed up inside you?